Andy Warhol: The Last Decade
Zeit Contemporary Art is pleased to present an online viewing room devoted to an often overlooked yet crucial period in Andy Warhol’s oeuvre. The late 1970s and 1980s proved to be the most prolific and mature part of his career, a period in which Warhol returned to hand-painted images and renewed his visual vocabulary, breaking boundaries in novel ways while reflecting on his early contributions to Pop art. “The 70s were sort of quiet… I think the 80s are going to be more exciting… In the 70s, nothing really different happened in art,” Warhol said in an interview to Art News in 1980.
This viewing room focuses on four persistent themes: symbols of power, portraiture, abstraction and advertisements. The project starts chronologically in 1977 with the series Hammer & Sickle and ends with the Camouflage series, begun the year before his death in 1987. In the span of 10 years, Warhol created a prolific body of abstractions, portraits, re-interpretations of the history of art, and new iconic images. This period saw the creation of The Dollar Signs, presented as a group in 1982 at Leo Castelli Gallery.
Fascinated by the rise of consumer culture and the concept of abundance, Warhol’s innovative art applied the same commercial process of mass production to his work. This concept was a pivotal moment in art history, disrupting rarefaction of art and venerating the banality of popular culture, redefining the artist from a singular creative visionary to an agent of production. Navigating between commercialism and counterculture, the 1980s offered a new context for his artistic practice, when a new wave of New York artists embraced the pictorial medium as a generational reaction to Minimalism and conceptual art.
By the 1980s Pop and celebrity culture had shifted from its nascent novelty in the 1960s to a more ubiquitous and glossier feature of mass American culture, lending Warhol’s later work a more nebulous quality as his symbols drift between subject and object. Contrasting with Warhol’s early Pop works, mediated by the industrial technique of screen-printing, the works from this period have more brushstroke qualities and a rejuvenating shift in his colour palette. Citrus and pastel tones along with a greater balance of colour highlight the progression and maturity of Warhol’s later compositions, though maintaining his trademark cheek.
The premature death of the artist at the age of 58 marked an abrupt end to a period of radical experimentation, discoveries and collaborations. Nonetheless, Warhol’s later years opened novel paths that have become crucial to our understanding of contemporary art today.
“Business art is the step that comes after art. I started as a commercial artist, and I want to finish as a business artist. Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art.”
Dollar Sign, 1981
Andy Warhol first exhibited the series Dollar Signs at Leo Castelli’s Greene Street Gallery in 1982. The seemingly endless succession of dollar signs on the wall transformed the space into a veritable temple of financial worship articulated in the artist’s inimitable palette of bright Pop colours. The Dollar Signs explore the universal recognizability and semiotic power of cultural icons that comprise everyday life. The sign is connected to Warhol’s lifelong fascination with money as a ubiquitous symbol of wealth, power, and status that spans his entire oeuvre as a key leitmotif and inextricably links his art with his own biography.
Dollar Sign, 1982
“The idea of America is so wonderful because the more equal something is, the more American it is.”
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Hammer & Sickle I, 1977
Hammer & Sickle II, 1977
Hammer & Sickle III, 1977
Hammer & Sickle IV, 1977
“I’ve never met a person I couldn’t call a beauty.”
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Kay Fortson, 1976
Pat Hearn, 1985
Mario Borsato, c. 1981
Vito Doria, c. 1981
Joseph Beuys, 1980
This work is part of a series of large portraits dedicated to this giant of Post-war art, derived from a single Polaroid photograph that Warhol took in 1979, when the two met for the first time. It may seem surprising that Warhol and Beuys found common ground regarding how different their approaches were, Warhol exalting fame and consumerism while Beuys combined the spiritual and the physical using everyday materials. “I like the politics of Beuys. He should come to the US and be politically active there. That would be great… He should be president,” Andy Warhol said of his friend.
Annie Oakley, 1986
Weather Map (Positive), 1986
In the 1980s Andy Warhol became increasingly interested in painting again through his collaborations with Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Francesco Clemente. In 1985-1986, Warhol executed a series of small (16 x 20 inches) silkscreened black and white paintings of images taken from advertisements, diagrams, maps, and illustrations in newspapers and magazines. With images of weather maps, Russian missile bases, and common consumer items such as sneakers, boots, hamburgers and keys, they revisit the early years of hand-painted Pop images and have an uncanny resonance with how we live in a world populated by consumer culture.
Missile Maps (Positive), 1985-1986
Missile Maps (Negative), 1985-1986
Beatle Boots (Positive), 1985-1986
Work Boots (Negative), 1985-1986
Work Boots (Positive), 1985-1986
Key Service (Negative), 1985-1986
Key Service (Positive), 1985-1986
“An eruption is an overwhelming image, an extraordinary happening and even a great piece of sculpture.”
“What can I do that would be abstract but not really abstract?”
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